Are you content? Is your life “enough” for you?
Content. Enough. In North America, those words seem to have taken on a negative connotation. It’s almost like we should never be happy with what we have, or who we are. There is always a push for “more”. Saying that what you have is enough has come to mean that you are “settling”. Settling is bad, because you are special, you are unique and you deserve the best!!! As a result you should never be satisfied. The danger here is that you get into this never ending cycle or always wanting more.
What’s that, you make $30k a year? Well look at all the things you can have if you made $40k. How about $50k, $100k, $2 million? There will always be more. The question is, when is something “enough”.
I used money because it’s easy to quantify different levels (2 is larger than 1). But this mindset pervades all aspects of life and one of the big areas is happiness. The “quality” of your life is seen as something that can only be measured by your own personal level of happiness. If you aren’t happy this becomes a reflection on the quality of your life. Obviously something is missing, or you need more. But what is missing?
Will a hobby help? A new job? A new relationship? Hobbies are easy to try. Jobs may be a bit more difficult (especially if you are in a career), but they are doable. Most companies understand that people are trying to build a career, and if you leave on good terms a good employee is often welcomed back.
Relationships, though? Those aren’t the sort of thing where you can just “test the waters” and see what’s out there and then come back if things don’t work out. Well technically you can, and many do. But I’m pretty sure that would be referred to as an affair, and personally I don’t advise them.
I suspect everyone has heard stories of people who leave relationships because they are unhappy and looking for some kind of change in their life. What they have isn’t enough, and they believe that better opportunities exist for them.
Some people make a change and find that a new start was exactly what they needed. Others make a change and eventually realize it was a mistake. Here are a few stories of the latter variety:
One buddy was married, and about a year after their first child was born his wife walked out. He doesn’t know what happened, but believes she found the reality of being a wife and a parent didn’t match up to her expectations and she didn’t want to do it anymore. He tried holding onto the marriage for a while, and they lived in separate rooms while she relived her youth and went back to the party scene. After a while he gave up and filed for divorce. He hurt for a long time, but eventually moved on with his life.
About two years after their split while doing the weekly exchange of their son his ex-wife told him she missed him, realized she had made a mistake and wondered if it would be possible for them to try again. He told me that hearing her admit it was a mistake made things worse for him, because he had never wanted their relationship to fail and he had tried his best to hold on. But by then it was too late.
Another buddy was raised by his mom, as his parents separated when he was young. While he was growing up his mom had a number of boyfriends that came and went, but none of them were around for very long. When he was older his mom admitted to him that leaving his dad was the biggest mistake she had ever made, and he doesn’t believe she’s ever really been happy in a relationship since.
In both cases the person who left the relationship wasn’t happy, and felt there was “more” out there. They felt they could be happier with a different person, or a different life. In both cases they found that life on the other side wasn’t exactly what they expected, and they didn’t appreciate what they had until it was gone.
Exciting and New
I have to admit, I don’t know a lot about the relationships in the above scenarios. I met the first guy a few years after his wife walked out. For the other guy, I’ve never met his parents. What I do know is one member of the relationship wanted things to work out while the other wanted to “spread their wings”; and in both cases later regretted things. Maybe the problem was that they had got in a rut. Maybe things had just gotten boring, and the wives were looking for a bit more “excitement” in their lives. At the very least, it’s safe to say that they were looking for “something” that was missing in their relationships. Well, “new” doesn’t stay new forever, and neither does excitement actually.
A few years ago a buddy of mine went through… well, I’m not actually sure what he went though. He was well educated, and working a good job in his chosen field. We weren’t close, but we made a point of getting together periodically for lunch to catch up on each others lives. One day we went for lunch and he seemed as happy and positive as usual. A few months later I received a mass email saying he had quit his job and was moving out to the coast to become a white water rafting instructor, which he did for a number of years before eventually returning home.
A while back we got together to catch up and he told me a bit about his life as a white water rafting instructor. The work was seasonal, so when the season was over he alternated between traveling the world (finding hot destinations) and crashing at his parents’ house back home. In his words, he became a bit of a gypsy. He said he enjoyed it at first, but started to miss family and friends. He had relationships, but since he was fairly transient, the only relationships he had were passing things with people who weren’t looking for anything serious. Money was tight, and he didn’t have a sense of permanence. Not only that, but his job started to become exactly that – just another job. He came to realize that:
It doesn’t matter what you are doing, everything becomes routine eventually.
His is a pretty extreme case. We all have bills, and we all need jobs to pay them. At the bare minimum we need food and shelter, but we probably want a bit more than that. So there isn’t really a lot that we can change. With most of our days spent working to support our lives, much of life is routine.
So how can we become happier? To do that we need to learn to enjoy the small moments in life. More importantly, we need to learn to appreciate them. Appreciation and gratefulness are some of the biggest indicators of success and happiness in relationships. Those who appreciate and are grateful for their partners tend to be happy. Those who aren’t, not so much.
It’s an unfortunate fact that many people don’t appreciate what they have though, and it takes losing it in order to realize what they have lost. It’s sad that many relationships are lost due to a simple lack of appreciation. But why is that?
Characteristics of Unhappy People
I recently read an article on chronically unhappy people, and it was found that they tend to share a number of traits. These traits included:
- Victims mentality. Seeing yourself as a victim of circumstance or “the situation” and not believing you have the power to make changes
- Focusing on what’s wrong or missing instead of what you have. This is similar to the lack of appreciation mentioned above
- Comparing yourself to others. This is related to focusing on what is missing, and it breeds jealousy and resentment – two very toxic behaviors
- Try to control or micromanage your life and being rigid about change. Being a control freak is extremely unhealthy, as your way isn’t always the right way. But even if it was, life has a way of throwing you curveballs, and you must be flexible enough to adapt accordingly
- Worry and Fear. Focusing on all the things that could go wrong instead of focusing on what has gone right
All of these are toxic attitudes and habits. As the article mentions, these are things that we all do sometimes. But there is a strong correlation between our happiness and how long we stay in these mindsets vs working to get out of them.
When people hear the saying “you are responsible for your own happiness” it means you have the capacity to make appropriate changes in your life. But often it’s easier to look externally then it is to look in the mirror. I don’t think finding happiness has to mean changing your relationship, job, or distancing yourself from family and friends (though these are definitely all things that could be contributing to unhappiness).
I think being responsible for your own happiness is really about looking at your own attitudes and your approach to life and learning to slow down, let go of control and appreciate the things you already have.
People often fight change, and cling to the status quo even if they know that their approach to life is self-destructive. They feel they can’t change, because “it’s just the way I am” and I can empathize with that. Change isn’t easy, especially if you have a lifetime of attitudes and habits to break.
Earlier I mentioned my buddy who became a white water rafting instructor. Guess what he’s doing now? He’s doing the same job he was doing before. But now he sees it in a new light, and approaches it with a different attitude. More than skill, intelligence or beauty, attitude is the most important quality we have.
I recently read an interesting article on affairs. It suggested that people who have affairs are trying to fill a hole in their lives and find something that is missing. That seems fairly obvious. The interesting part is that the article went on to state that the things people are looking for are things they either had or could have in their current relationships. However they stopped putting them in themselves. Take passion for example. Passion often fades, and is used as an excuse (sorry, I mean reason) for affairs. People look for passion outside the relationship because they have stopped putting it into their own relationship. Again, this comes down to attitude and approach.
I’m by no means suggesting that leaving a relationship is always a mistake. Sometimes a fresh start is better for both parties. But I do think many relationships fail unnecessarily. In many cases people simply stopped giving their existing relationships the care it needed. If that has happened, most relationships can be saved by refocusing on them, nurturing and rebuilding.
So is the grass really greener on the other side? No, it’s simply a matter of perception. Perfection doesn’t exist, so when people make changes they are exchanging one set of opportunities and problems for another.
12 thoughts on “Is the Grass Really Greener?”
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“The ‘quality’ of your life is seen as something that can only be measured by your own personal level of happiness.”
External happiness can become a temporary fix, for that which someone lacks internally. Perhaps it is the acquisition of the latest Bugatti, developing a new 8K sq. ft. home from the ground up, or maybe it is “trading up” from your high school sweetheart after hitting the lottery, and marrying a Playboy Bunny.
These are external fixes, and the high experienced can maintain “happiness” for a period of time, but eventually, it wears off.
Eventually, you become tired of the Bugatti and seek a limited edition Ferrari. Perhaps the home appears far larger than expected and you place it on the market. As for the Bunny, well, you met her friend and she appears far “hotter,” so you begin cheating.
When you lack a sense of oneness with yourself, which is a true test of genuine happiness, nothing in the external environment will fix this. They are like band aids, because they are necessary for the moment, but are incapable of long-term healing. The grass only appears greener, because you fail to notice that the sunlight casts a brighter glow, due to the angle of your current position.
When you adjust your angle, the glow shifts, and you begin to notice the dark patches and weeds. Great piece. I rather enjoyed this.
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Yes, if you are looking for “more”, it will never be enough. Obviously there is a balance, but that balance has to come from within.
One of the biggest mistakes people can make is measuring their own happiness against the happiness of others. You don’t see others. All you can see is the things they have, and how they present themselves.
You hear stories of people who lived though war and difficult times, but they were able to find their own piece of happiness. They made the best of their situation.
Yet at the same time you see people who have so much and they aren’t satisfied.
It all comes down to mindset. As you said, adjusting your angle allows you to see the dark patches and weeds. But adjusting the angle also allows you to see the good in what is already around you.
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The concept of measuring happiness in relation to someone else, is one of the most destructive behaviors. It is like chasing the first high, after experimenting with drugs.
Though I don’t smoke, drink or participate in any drug related activities, I hear that people often chase the first high, but each new encounter leads to a failure.
In my opinion, this idea of comparing happiness has become more prevalent today, due to social media. We have various platforms where we can now see people from all walks of life, where we can catch a glimpse into their lives. This means we can now see the houses they own, families they are part of, their relationships, their occupation, etc.
I read someplace, and I cannot recall where, but the social media generation is becoming one of the most depressed, due to this measurement of happiness. The unhappiness comes solely from what they see, in the lives of others on social media. This is quite telling honestly, because the measurement of one’s happiness, with that of others on social media, shows just how little some people umderstand happiness.
Happiness should begin from within first, and eventually, it will project itself outward.
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I also believe this is a societal shift. Depression rates are climbing considerably, and there is a link between depression and chronic unhappiness. I think we are doing a lot of things wrong when it comes to happiness.
What I am interested in learning is the “why”. I’m generally a happy person. I can’t say I was always that way, but I am at peace with myself and the decisions I have made in life. But I’m not sure why that is. What is it about me that causes me to be grateful and content with what I have, vs. being someone who always focuses on what is missing?
I suspect that for me part of it was moving out at a young age, and having to learn personal responsibility in a hurry. But it that it, or is there more to it?
One thing that I always keep in mind when looking at someone else’s life is you don’t know the specifics of it. Yeah, they may have a lot of “stuff”. But how badly in debt are they? Are they actually happy?
And what does “happiness” actually measure anyhow. Someones mood has a biochemical component to it. Sleep, diet, fitness level. These are things that can impact your biochemical levels and your ability to actually feel happiness.
So sometimes “happiness” is something we can’t actually trust, as it’s not a true reflection. But if you can’t trust your own feelings, then what can you trust?
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A lot of this hit home, as usual 🙂 All my partner would say is that she wasn’t happy. she didn’t necessarily blame me, she just said things were routine and we were living life roommates. Do I agree? Yes. I felt that when she got to this place, it became my fault. I wasn’t making her happy. There were things about me that needed to be changed yet she never spoke up about any of this until it was too late & she wanted out. We both see now, it was a lot of HER that was unhappy. Hated her job, was unhappy with herself, was frustrated with school, etc. So our relationship was the icing on the cake but was the part that took the fall. She didn’t walk away from her job or school. She walked away from me, and found that some really “bad” option became more appealing. Not in the sense of sexual or attraction, but that this person was showing attention to her and making her feel important again though this person knew nothing about her. All she had to do was tell her she was cute, and flirt and that just cinched the deal. My partner was no longer in love with me or happy so she needed to go. But just like your stories, it took her only (less than) 2 months to realize the grass was not greener by any means. SHe wasn’t instantly happy, she found temporary highs. Some girl, a new truck, shopping sprees… but at the end of the day she realized she still wasn’t happy and instead she was more unhappy bc she missed me.
We always do want more in life and that’s the problem and I am guilty as well. I want to be thinner, I want a nicer car, a bigger house by the beach, I want more money, etc… doesn’t everyone? It’s focusing on what we do have that is hard sometimes but I’ve learned alot lately and I’m truly trying to be thankful for what I have and that is very hard when you’ve been scorned like I have been. But I keep trying 🙂 It’s all I can do! Thanks for a wonderful post!
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Something I was thinking of this morning (which will probably work it’s way into a post at some time, so here’s a preview I guess)…
If your hand is sore and you go to the doctor about it, what does the doctor do? Does he/she remove the hand? Remove the arm? Have you executed on the spot and then call in the next patient? No. Chances are, the doctor tries to understand what the problem is. They ask questions, isolate the areas that hurt. They ask about things that have happened before you hurt it. They try to understand what IS ACTUALLY THE PROBLEM. Alright, fine. A lot of GP’s will probably just give you a prescription for an antibiotic and send you on your way (lotsa crappy doctors out there who don’t seem to care). But they *should* try to understand the problem. Maybe there’s something serious that’s wrong, but maybe it’s a sliver, or a hangnail, or a bruise.
Relationships are tough, because we are emotionally invested. We can’t see clearly because we are looking though our own emotional filter. The normal *symptom* that people start with is they aren’t happy. So we try to understand why – but usually we don’t ask the right questions. It’s easy to point to things, to blame things. Oh, I’m not happy because of this, or that. And often the relationship is the first thing that is blamed. Why? I have no idea. I guess it’s easier to point the finger at someone else than it is to take a good long look in the mirror.
My belief when it comes to relationships is that too many people decide to amputate the arm when they actually have a sliver. They have something that is largely good, and they throw it all away.
I write a lot on the mindsets that lead to that (in my opinion anyhow, though I do read a lot, talk to a lot of people and usually have at least some factual/research basis for the things I say). Some of the big issues in relationships are:
– avoidant personality types
– self-esteem or self-image issues (lack of self love)
– anxiety or depression
– stress management
Interestingly, often the issues in a relationship have almost nothing to do with the relationship and instead have to do with the coping mechanisms of the person who is unhappy.
The difficult part is that once they are unhappy and they have decided the relationship is the issue, convincing them otherwise is almost impossible. They have to come to that conclusion on their own, and all to often by the time they do it is too late, and too much damage has been done.
One of my goals with this site is to make people think. To make them look at their relationships and realize hey, there is a lot that’s good here. It IS worth the effort to try and make it better. Anything can get better, if we let it.
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All very true. She did amputate, she had no idea how to fix and was scared. She ran. Thinking it would resolve itself. Luckily therapy helped her see that it wasn’t just my actions that made her feel this way and that her feelings weren’t of not being inove, they were masked by years of avoidance and shutting down. She is a ppl pleaser and she lived her life FOR me which hurt us both. She completely lost herself. She couldn’t even tell you what she liked or what hobbies she had bc everything she did was to keep me happy yet she wasn’t making herself happy which in turn didn’t make me happy it hurt me and left me lonely. So many lessons in life and they’re hard! Idk why some of us are faced with what we go thru but it’s all a learning process, just wish it wasn’t so hurtful sometimes.
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From what you had described previously, I’m not surprised to hear that avoidance and shutting down were (are?) issues.
In my opinion, avoidance is one of the biggest killers of relationships, but it is a symptom of something else.
I will venture a guess that communication and dealing with conflict are problems as well. One thing that many people have a hard time wrapping their heads around is that conflict (done right) is actually a good thing. It is only through conflict that we are able to express when we are hurt, or our needs aren’t being met. Unless that is expressed, things can never improve. Conflict doesn’t mean “something is wrong”, it means something can be better. And we should always want to be better.
With avoidance, conflict it hid and bottled up. Which breeds resentment over time as things aren’t dealt with. Eventually things burst, and the other partner is left blindsided as they find out about all sorts of things that they never knew.
In my “quick links” area at the top, I have a number of posts that I have grouped under Identity. There are a number of posts, but I suspect that you (and potentially your partner) may be interested in them.
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